Stay Safe Michigan! How to Drive on Winter Roads

Michiganders know the perils of Midwest winters: cold temperatures, whirling snowstorms and treacherous roads. In fact, winter is a prime season for accidents, with more than 116,800 people injured in the U.S. every year due to car crashes during snowy, slushy and icy conditions. Fortunately, with the right preparation, you can make getting to your destination a lot safer.

Prepare Before you Go

Know what conditions to expect before you get in the car and preparing accordingly. Here are some steps you can take before you head out:

  • Prepare an emergency car kit that includes a small shovel, ice scraper, snacks, water, blankets and emergency flares (see the 10 must-haves for a car safety kit here).
  • Plan out your route by checking local traffic and weather reports—and be open to the idea that it might not be safe to travel at all. Resources like The Weather Channel and MI Drive, a service provided by the Michigan Department of Transportation, are great for real-time updates.
  • Make sure your car is winter ready with well-inflated tires and at least half a tank of gas.

While Behind the Wheel

If you decide to trek out in poor conditions, keep these driving techniques in mind to avoid accidents:

  • Stay alert on slippery roads. Drive slowly and avoid making any sharp turns or hard stops as it takes longer for your brakes and steering mechanisms to engage in slippery conditions.
  • Know what kind of brakes you have and how to use them if you start to slide. For instance, if you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), press firmly on the brakes until the vehicle stops. Keep in mind, you may feel some resistance when the ABS kicks in.
  • In the event of skidding or sliding, stay calm and know how to maneuver your vehicle to steady your path. AAA provides a great how-to guide on handling different types of skids.

In Case of Emergency

If you are involved in an accident or witness one, here’s what to do:

  • In the event of an emergency on the road, use your phone to call for help and let people know that you need assistance, provide as many details as possible to help them find you. If your vehicle is disabled, stay with your vehicle as opposed to walking to find help. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for emergency crews to locate you. If you’re able to get out to clear snow and ice from your car, avoid overexerting
  • Ensure that your exhaust pipe is clear of snow and ice to prevent dangerous carbon monoxide from building up in the passenger compartment while the engine is running.
  • Use the items in your safety kit to stay warm and make yourself visible until emergency crews can make it to you. A brightly colored cloth tied to the antenna can signal distress to passersby and make your vehicle more visible to emergency crews.

Photo Credit: Pexels

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